BEIRUT: Lebanon’s prosecutor general, Judge Ghassan Oueidat, informed the governor of the Banque Du Liban (BDL), Riad Salameh, about a request from the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for mutual legal assistance from Lebanese authorities related to an investigation into alleged money laundering and embezzlement tied to the central bank, at a meeting on Thursday.
The OAG gave Salameh the option of going to Switzerland to appear before a court there, or the Swiss Embassy in Lebanon, to be questioned by a judicial delegation. According to Reuters, Salameh has decided upon the former option.
In a statement made after meeting with Oueidat, Salameh said that “no money transfers were made abroad from the accounts or the budget of the central bank.”
Salameh told Oueidat that he was “ready to answer any further questions,” and added that he reserved the right to pursue legal action against “those who spread tendentious rumors and defamation that target me personally and the financial reputation of Lebanon.”
A judicial source said that no depositions were made during the meeting, and that the Swiss judiciary did not ask the Lebanese authorities to question Salameh themselves.
The source told Arab News: “The OAG has doubts about suspicious financial transfers, which could be related to money laundering, by a company related to Salameh’s brother, Raja Salameh. Riad Salameh is also a partner in this company, which has transferred over $240 million from the bank to Switzerland since 2002.”
The source expressed surprise at the involvement of “the Lebanese judiciary in this matter, knowing that Salameh often travels to Switzerland and the OAG could have informed him personally.”
The BDL denied claims about financial transfers made by Salameh or his brother on Tuesday, issuing a statement stressing the governor’s “commitment to Lebanese and international laws, and his willingness to cooperate with concerned entities.”
Another source told Arab News: “The governor is not entitled and has no right to make any financial transfers abroad from the central bank, and all transfers must be made through commercial banks. All BDL activities are monitored by the bank’s central council and the government’s commissioner.”
Salameh’s role has been under scrutiny for more than a year after depriving many Lebanese of access to deposits in their banks, as the BDL had been borrowing money from commercial banks to finance the state’s policies.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun and his party have insisted on a forensic audit of the BDL’s accounts, while Parliament decided few weeks ago that the audit should cover all state institutions, and not just the central bank.